Exploring the archaeology, landscape and history of Slane, Co. Meath

Solstice at Slane Lecture

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As part of the first ever Solstice at Slane festival, there will be a special celebratory lecture – the Inaugural Solstice at Slane Lecture 2012. This lecture will be delivered by Dr Frank Prendergast, Ireland’s foremost authority on archaeoastronomy. The lecture is entitled: SOLSTICE – a ritual and cyclical marker?

The lecture will take place at 8pm on Thursday 20th December in the Conyngham Arms Hotel. The next morning, Frank will be providing joint commentary on the Newgrange Solstice itself for RTÉ’s coverage of the event. Admission is €5; please register your intention to attend at conor.brady@dkit.ie.


It is a profound and magical experience to witness the winter solstice sunrise from the darkness of the burial chamber at Newgrange.  At that time of year, the apparent standstill of the sun on the horizon endures for several days.  This would suggest that, in the prehistoric past, the architecture of the tomb was never intended to function as a kind of astronomical observatory or precise calendrical marker as is sometimes suggested.  Rather, the solar spectacle observed within the tomb at dawn may be one of a number of intended experiential design elements that reflect the wider role, meaning and hierarchy evident in Neolithic passage tombs.

This inaugural lecture will examine the phenomenon and significance of the winter and summer solstices and its seemingly deliberate incorporation into the alignment of a restricted number of monuments – in Ireland and at a wider European level.

Frank Prendergast is the former Head of Spatial Information Sciences and now operates as a Research Associate at the DIT.  His professional background is in Geodetic Surveying.  He holds a Masters in Science from TCD and a PhD in Archaeology from UCD.  He is a Fellow of the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.  His recent spatial analysis of the Iron Age post enclosure at Lismullin, Co. Meath was recently published by the NRA.  As an invited contributing author, Frank is currently writing several sections for the forthcoming international Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy to be published by Springer in 2013.


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